This Sears Modern Home is an excellent example of why historic preservation is important, rewarding, and yes — fun.
You may be scratching your head thinking, Sears Modern Home? What the heck is that?
The Big Book
It is indeed a home from Sears, (Sears and Roebuck, that is) the catalog company many of us relied on for decades, ordering everything from dresses to tools. I still remember when the big book came and I’d spend hours turning down pages and circling all the latest fashions I had to have! Sears was the Amazon.com of the 1960s. That magical giant catalog had everything. The fact they created kit homes should not surprise anyone — the company was the go-to for all you could possibly need in life for a very long time.
This classic American four-square was from their top-of-the-line Honor Bilt Modern Home series. The Sears Modern Home concept was brilliant, and frankly, one we need today now that housing has become ridiculously expensive. Sears came up with 447 different housing styles in three different price ranges. They did not reinvent the wheel. They simply copied what was popular but allowed buyers to creatively customize.
A buyer could also submit their own plans. Sears then pre-cut and fitted material, (think Build-A-Bear for homes) and shipped off your house in boxes on the first available railroad car. Sears also offered favorable financing. It was a win-win evidenced by the fact that over 70,00 homes were sold between 1908 and 1940. Below is a snippet from What is a Sears Modern Home? out of the Sears archives.
Honor Bilt homes, were the most expensive and finest quality sold by Sears. Joists, studs, and rafters were to be spaced 14 3/8 inches apart. Attractive cypress siding and cedar shingles adorned most Honor Bilt exteriors. And. depending on the room, the interior featured clear-grade (i.e., knot-free) flooring and inside trim made from yellow pine, oak, or maple wood.
Once you received your house in a box you enlisted the aid of family and friends to assemble, just like the old barn-raisings. If your family was all thumbs Sears could help with that as well, wrangling contractors, carpenters, plumbers, and electricians to get you up and running in no time.
So fast forward a few decades. This sweet home had seen some hard times. Once divided up into eight different apartments — not uncommon for the area and the era — it had suffered tremendously. But there were local residents with eyes on this Sears Modern Home, waiting for the right moment to intercede.
Travis Ripley, owner of Ripley Renovations and a resident of Munger Place, was one of those folks.
“As a resident of the neighborhood, I had watched the property fall slowly into disrepair since I moved back to Dallas from New York in 2012,” Ripley said. “Trim was falling off and the fence was leaning so far over the sidewalk that we’d have to cross the street when taking our regular strolls around the neighborhood. I had wanted to be involved in fixing it up in some form or fashion ever since Day One, for both the challenge and for the general improvement of Munger Place as it sits on a highly visible corner.”
Good intentions have filled this Sears Modern Home for years. The previous owners purchased it in the 1990s with every intention of renovating and never got as far as they hoped. When Ripley got his hands on it he discovered framing for a sunken hot tub room in a rear addition, which is now the kitchen. In other words, there was a big hole in the subfloor.
“The previous owner was apparently a collector of old car parts,” Ripley said. The first thing we did was clear out a myriad of engine blocks and restoration components for antique cars which were displayed almost as though the first floor was a showroom!”
Ripley got the chance to purchase this home almost by accident. The plumber Ripley uses on all of his renovation projects, Trevor Speck of Speck Plumbing, had been called in by the previous owners to do some repairs. When he saw how much work the house needed he and his father offered to purchase it. He reached out to Ripley after realizing this was a bigger project than expected.
Enter Paul and Terri Herrington.
“Travis and I met each other through our respective family members,” Paul said. “We discovered we both enjoy old houses. I’ve restored a couple in the past and he lives and helps homeowners in Munger Place.”
They had talked about doing some projects together on a different scale but when this Sears Modern Home came along they jumped on it.
“Deep down, we wanted to do a first-class renovation to contribute to a part of Dallas,” Paul said. “We would have loved to do a restoration, but much of the interior had been cleared.”
So a renovation that provided for today’s home layout preferences was designed with architect Mike Bausch of Bausch Architecture joining the team. They put a heavy emphasis on period details to keep the feeling of the original home.
The project took about two years as the 110-year-old home had settled into a comfortable position that was neither, plumb, level, or square.
“To do the renovation we had to make the foundation right and then straighten the first floor, then the second floor,” Paul said. “The two rear additions required a rebuild of about 80 percent due to the poor condition. Once that was done, we framed the third floor. We then returned to the first floor and started the finish work.”
“I really like the fact we are helping to preserve some of the housing history of Dallas,” Paul said. “I’m also extremely proud of the quality of the work. We could have done a flip and saved a lot of time and money, but neither of us could accept that approach on such a nice property and given its history.”
This Sears Moden Home at 5000 Worth Street is now a stunning beacon of historic preservation in Munger Place. With 4,075 square feet, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a powder bath, it’s a move-in-ready showplace.
“I think William Murtagh, the first keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, put it best,” Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s listing agent Elizabeth Mast said. ” ‘It has been said that at its best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.’ ”
Mast has this wonderful Sears Modern Home listed for $890,000.